Washington: 12 square miles surrounded by reality

After listening to James Fallows this weekend on NPR and reading his column on The Atlantic’s Web site, one wonders how America achieved its greatness while the U.S. Senate existed.

The Senate, one of the more secretive fraternal organizations in America, believes in giving individual members the opportunity to derail the desires of 99 other elected representatives.

It’s a bipartisan game — absolute power is like that. But Fallows pinpoints the actions of a single senator, upset about one of 80 appointments the Senate was to vote on:

On Thursday afternoon, just before its Memorial Day recess, the Senate had planned to consider about 80 of these nominations as a group. They all had been through financial and security vetting; they had been through committee consideration; they were headed for jobs that in many cases now stood vacant; they were ready to go. Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, moved for approval by unanimous consent, apparently believing that a deal to clear out the huge backlog had been struck. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, begged to differ. He was still sore about the recess appointment of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Therefore he wouldn’t agree to the en-bloc vote.

A nominee for one diplomatic mission, who got caught up in the tantrum, talked to Fallows later:

“I’m about as well positioned to handle this as anybody,” the nominee told me this morning. “I don’t have kids in school, I’m self employed, I can simply keep receiving briefings and working on the local dialects. But is it any wonder why people don’t want to take these jobs when they get dicked around like this? I consider myself a patient person. But this is turning into a test of how long you can wait without going crazy.”

Here’s Fallows’ entire segment on the week in Washington.

(News Cut’s daily Five By Eight column returns on Tuesday.)

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